ISLAMABAD - The lawmakers in the Senate yesterday alleged that the government was helpless to ask from the Saudi government about the exact information of Pakistani pilgrims died or missing in Mina tragedy.

The remarks of the legislators came followed by the protest walkout of opposition benches after Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf gave a statement in the house about Pakistani martyrs, injured or missing during Mina stampede in the Saudi Arabia.

The opposition benches staged a second protest walkout from the house stating that PML-N-led government had eroded the consensus developed in All Parties Conference (APC) held on May 28, 2015 that the western route of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be built on priority basis.

The lawmakers across the isle questioned the PML-N government over its failure to handle Mina tragedy with regards to deaths of Pakistanis there and blamed that it failed to ask from the Saudi government about the exact number of the deceased and the missing bodies.

The senators criticised the government after religious affairs minister in his first appearance in the Senate after Mina incident said: “Total of 99 Pakistanis died in the stampede and out of them 70 have been buried there while one dead body was brought back to Pakistan.” However, he failed to answer the whereabouts of remaining 28 dead bodies. At one time he was counting these 28 in the dead bodies and on the other could not answer where these bodies were?

His statement caused unrest among the opposition benches and Farhatullah Babar of PPP said: “Instead of throwing light, the statement of minister has generated heat in the house.” The lawmakers also blamed that it was discrimination with Pakistan because other countries, including India and Iran had not only counted their dead but these bodies had been brought back to their respective countries. Babar said Iran and India counted all their dead bodies. Why this happened with Pakistan? Whether the Pakistani government applied for Saudi government for DNA test of the martyrs to recognise them”? “The government showed extreme carelessness and criminal negligence,” he added. Mohsin Aziz of PTI said that the statement of minister added more to the prevailing confusion about the issue.

Usman Kakar of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) from the treasury benches said: “The minister is helpless before the Saudi government.” He alleged that the Saudi government buried the injured people declaring them dead. Brigadier (Retd) Williams questioned whether there was any contingency plan? While Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel demanded resignation of the minister.

Replying the queries of the legislators, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said that it was responsibility of the Saudi government to make arrangements for Haj. He said that the incident did not take place on the point of Rami (stoning the Satan). “A committee formed by the Saudi government is probing the matter and Saudi government has asked that it could not permit any country to interfere into the affairs of Haj,” he said. The reason of the tragedy would be known once the inquiry committee would give its findings.

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani remarked: “It is clear from today’s discussion that the government is helpless to get more information from the Saudi government. “Because the government cannot get more whatever it is getting from there,” he said. He questioned why Pakistan was facing this discrimination when Iran and India had counted all their dead bodies.

The lawmakers from treasury and opposition benches severely protested over the response of the Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal on an adjournment motion regarding construction of western route of CPEC. They said that they minister had failed to satisfy whether the construction work on western route of CPEC had been started or not before the opposition benches staged a protest walkout from the house.

Farhatullah Babar said that PM should take the house into confidence whether consensus developed during PAC of May 28 had eroded. He said that the PM should give a statement whether western route of the project was being replaced with the early harvest project or not

Planning and Development Minister said that the government was working in letter and spirit on the consensus decision of May 28 that western route would be constructed on priority basis. He called that the CPEC project was not only a game changer but also fate changer. “CPEC is not the name of single route or road bit it is a concept and frame work of four major fields, including development of Gawadar Port, to overcome energy crisis, infrastructure development and industrial cooperation .He said that tender for the construction of the Hasan Abdal to Dera Ismail Khan road as part of the project was being floated soon.

Taj Haider of PPP said that it proved from the discussion of minister that no work was being done on western route.

Responding on an adjournment motion, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the house that the National Finance Commission was incomplete, as Punjab had not nominated his member. Soon the commission would be completed it would start work to finalise the next NFC Award.